Civilian deaths in Afghanistan have reached a new high at the mid-year point, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Although there was a slight decrease in total casualties (deaths and injuries), there have been more fatalities than in previous years, with nearly 1,700 killed so far in 2018. Since UNAMA started documentation in 2009, almost 15,000 civilians have lost their lives to the armed conflict in Afghanistan. UNAMA also reports that deliberate attacks on civilians from anti-government elements are increasing at concerning rates. In June there was an unprecedented ceasefire for three days as Eid al-Fitr was observed, with no casualties in attacks carried out either by Taliban or government forces. ISIS, however, did not observe the ceasefire. (Photo via Pixabay)
Afghan peace activists arrived in Kabul after trekking some 700 kilometers on foot to call for an end to Afghanistan’s long internal war. The Helmand Peace Convoy reached the national capital after traveling for almost 40 days from Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold. It began with a group of nine men and picked up around 40 supporters during the journey. The arrival in Kabul followed a three-day ceasefire between the Taliban and government forces coinciding with the Eid al-Fitr holiday that ends the holy month of Ramadan. The Kabul government extended its ceasefire by 10 days, but the Taliban said that they would resume their attacks. ISIS meanwhile carried out two deadly suicide attacks in Jalalabad targeting public Eid celebrations. (Photo: RFE/RL)
US forces in Afghanistan have dropped more munitions in the first three months of 2018 than during the same time period in 2011—a time widely considered the height of the war. The spike in bombing comes after years of drawing down US troops across the country's remote rural areas—and therefore relies increasingly on technical rather than human intelligence. Figures released by US Air Forces Central Command indicate 1,186 "munitions expended by aircraft" in January, February and March this year. In 2011, during those same months, the military documented 1,083 weapons released from both manned and unmanned aircraft. The increase in "kinetic air operations" is part of a strategy to degrade the Taliban’s finances by targeting drug labs, which the insurgents are believed to tax. (Photo: USAF)
Human Rights Watch has urged the Afghan government and US military to investigate alleged summary executions committed by special forces against civilians in Kandahar province. The executions reportedly took place during military operations spanning from Jan. 31 to Feb. 1. In one instance, during a coordinated attack by a Special Forces Unit of the National Directorate of Security, the NDS troops reportedly killed at least 20 civilians and arbitrarily detained at least 38 men. Among those summarily slain were civilians fleeing US air-strikes. (Photo: Afghan forces in Kandahar, via Wikimedia Commons)
Recent US raids in Afghanistan have targeted presumed forces of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, the supposed Uighur militant network active in China's far-western Xinjiang region. News of the air-strikes in Badakhshan province comes amid reports that China is preparing to establish a military base in the same region of Afghanistan. Badakhshan forms a long panhandle between Tajikistan to the north and Pakistan to the south to reach a border with Chinese territory. (Photo: US troops on patrol in Zabul province; US Army via Flickr)
With Afghanistan's opium output now breaking all previous records, hashish continues to remain an important sideline for the country's warring factions—and to hear the US tell it, it's the ultra-puritanical Taliban that are responsible for it. Recent NATO raids have claimed massive hash hauls from the hideouts of the Taliban's elite "Red Units." Operation Resolute Support commanders now say the Taliban have become a "narco-insurgency." (Photo: NATO)
A coordinated attack on a compound of the Afghan army in capital Kabul left at least 11 soldiers dead. Two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the barracks of the army's 111th division in Qargha district before a small team of gunmen moved in. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news agency. This was the third large attack in Kabul since Taliban insurgents launched an assault on Intercontinental Hotel that left over 20 dead. The second attack came when presumed Taliban militants denoted an ambulance packed with explosives near an Interior Ministry compound, killing over 100. Another six people were killed in an assault claimed by ISIS on the office of aid group Save the Children in the eastern city of Jalalabad. (Photo: Khaama Press)
The latest stats from the UN's annual Afghanistan Opium Survey are in, and the news is grim. Opium production in the war-torn country jumped nearly 87% in 2017, to record levels—an estimated 9,000 metric tons. Areas under poppy cultivation rose by 63%, reaching a record 328,000 hectares and boosting the number of Afghanistan's 34 provinces now cultivating opium from 21 to 24. Since overthrowing the Taliban in 2001, the US has spent nearly $7 billion to combat opium—to spectacularly counter-productive results. (Photo: VOA)
International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda made a formal request to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by US the military in Afghanistan. The investigation would also examine crimes at secret CIA detention facilities in Poland, Romania and Lithuania. The request cites articles of the Rome Statute concerning murder, torture and unlawful imprisonment. It marks the first time ICC prosecutors have targeted the United States.
The Academy of Sciences of Afghanistan warned that continued illegal extraction of the country's mineral wealth is leading to serious security and political consequences. Acting ASA director Suraya Popal stated: "Terrorists and strongmen with illegal extractions and revenues from mines weaken the rule of law and fund the insurgency. Thus, extraction of the country's minerals should be done in line with the law and international standards before it's too late."
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan released a special report detailing human rights violations committed during attacks on Mirza Olang village, in northern Sari Pul province, possibly constituting war crimes. During the three-day assault, Taliban and Islamic State fighters reportedly killed at least 36 people in the predominantly Shi'ite village.
Trump was expected to announce a troop surge for Afghanistan n his address from Fort Myer in Arlington, Va. Gen. John Nicholson, the top US military commander in Afghanistan, had been requesting another 4,000 troops, on top of the current 8,500. Instead, Trump was heavy on get-tough rhetoric and light on actual specifics. But as he spoke, a US drone struck presumed ISIS targets in Nangarhar province—the latest in a growing trend toward automated warfare in Afghanistan.